Not the best of beginnings to the new Hijri year.
The reports of 34 AQ dead in last weeks strikes and 17 captured should put to bed the argument by certain analysts that AQ has only 50 members in Yemen. I was shocked when I heard someone say this a couple of weeks ago and nearly knocked over the microphone in my haste to disagree with him.
Also, is this interesting report from News Yemen that links Muhammad Salih al-'Awlaqi to Fahd al-Qas'a (often transliterated, for some reason, as: Fahd al-Quso) who was involved in the USS Cole attack.
Finally, in what should be a lesson to me, if I would have only had patience yesterday I could have avoided linking directly to a jihadi forum and instead waited for the al-Jazeera English report.
A separate thread on the forums claimed that what happened yesterday is that: seven AQ members drove up to the rally in a car and two got out and one of them started speaking to the crowd and then when he finished the seven drove away.
There is no way to judge the accuracy of the report and I usually avoid quoting the forums (with the exception of official statements which are posted in a separate area) for the same reason I avoid quoting blogs - there is no way to judge the accuracy of the material. Not to be outdone a later poster claims it wasn't seven men but rather forty men that drove up. In a few days no doubt we'll hear about hundreds of AQ fighters descending on the protest rally in Abyan distributing money and qat (well maybe not qat) almost like Robin Hood.
Update: In my haste to blog this morning - and then get back to Christmas activities - I neglected to spell out that the News Yemen article suggests that the AQ figure that appeared in Abyan yesterday was named by one local source as Muhammad Salih al-'Awlaqi, who was originally claimed to be killed in last week's raid, but is apparently still alive.